Last Saturday, The Brooklyn Bowl played host to the 12th Annual Freaks Ball, a high-energy party hosted by the deeply-rooted, music-loving Yahoo! Group the NYC Freaks. With access to so much music, New Yorkers are privileged to see any act of their choice. In some cases, multiple times a year. However, it’s a show like The Freaks Ball that we wait for as music lovers in New York City.
A wonderful part of NYC’s underground musical culture, the NYC Freaks have been around as long as anyone can remember. After inquiring to a few members, many couldn’t recall when they were invited to join NYC’s hottest music list, but noted that they were happy members and the list was their main access to music knowledge and insight. This party would be for the Freaks. Seeing the collection of hugging friends as the city’s heaviest music-loving hitters entered the Brooklyn Bowl was inspirational. The pockets of positivity around me were wonderful. This wasn’t your typical gathering for a concert at Brooklyn Bowl. Freaks had taken over.
Over the years, this friendly, musical party has included musicians and projects that eventually went on to hit the national jam-band scene, including The Duo (Marco Benevento and Joe Russo), Robert Randolph, Apollo Sunshine, RANA, Bustle in Your Hedgerow, New Mastersounds and members of the extended Daptone family.
Opening the show was a quartet consisting of Eric Deutsch on keys, Joe Russo on drums, Scott Metzger (Wolf!) on guitar and Hagar Ben-Ari (Dap Kings) on bass. They played a tight set consisting of the Beatle’s “Day Tripper,” Grateful Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie,” a ‘Wolf!’ tune called “Get in The Van,” Erik Deutsch’s original “Funky Digits,” Neil Young’s “Don’t Let it Bring You Down” and an Ike Willis tune to close the set called “Funky Mule.” If one didn’t know any better, one might have thought that this was a polished group who rehearsed regularly. In reality, the set exposed four accomplished musicians with great talent coming together for a unique super jam that was solid, full of varying styles of music and fully preparing us for the main event that was about to hit the stage.
After a short intermission, we were delivered a Super Jam of E-P-I-C proportions with the Freaks Ball AllStars that included Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers), Eric Krasno (Soulive), Eddie Roberts (The New Mastersounds), Joe Russo (Furthur), Marco Benevento (Surprise Me Mr. Davis), Ron Johnson and Alecia Chakour (Warren Haynes Band).
The collection of musical talent on stage was staggering. Over the course of the night, each musician rotated on and off the stage providing for a rare night of music. Each guitarist was distinctly different in sound covering songs like Sly Stone’s “Sing a Simple Song,” Howard Tate’s “You Don’t Know Nothing About Love” and The Meter’s “Funky Miracle.” Bassist Ron Johnson held it down for the entire set with the biggest smile, killing it during “Windjammer.”
The Brooklyn Bowl audience stood in a pile of their own tears as the super group displayed their love for the magnificent Etta James, who died just days earlier. Alecia Chakour’s voice shook the rafter’s as she and Warren Haynes shared a duet on “Little Wings” while Eric Krasno’s guitar gently wept through “I’d Rather Go Blind.”
The lights this evening were above par, complimenting Marco Benevento’s unique sound as he performed his original “Mephisto” and the Benevento/Russo Duo’s “Scratchitti.” Everyone joined the stage to close with “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” A completely wonderful, ripping spectacle.
The Freaks Ball kicked off a trend of many more magical nights at the Brooklyn Bowl and raised the bar so high that it will be a long time before this night of music is topped. I look forward to running into more Freaks when that time comes.